These are a few of our favourite things...Eloisa Rodrigues

The Heritage and Education Centre (HEC) collection is very diverse and full of interesting things, which makes it hard to choose only one object. But one of my favourite things is a book that I came across when cataloguing HEC’s reference library: Marine Architecture or Directions for carrying on a ship, from the first laying of the keel to her actual going to sea, published in 1736.

Eloisa Rodrigues

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the book’s plain, blank dark brown sheep cover opened up to reveal pages filled with beautiful doodles and drawings. Maybe practicing for building his own ship, the creator of these artworks sketched a few sailing vessels on the blank pages of the book. The question that remains is: who was the artist (or artists) behind these doodles?

Marine Architecture inside cover

The first name that comes to mind is that of Augustin Francis Bullock Creuze (1800-1852). Appointed Principal Shipwright Surveyor at Lloyd’s Register in 1844, Creuze was the one responsible for starting what is now the Lloyd’s Register Foundation library. He was a respected naval architect who started studying at the School of Naval Architecture in Portsmouth at the young age of 14, and author of different articles including one for the Encyclopaedia Britannica in 1841. In the article’s introduction “he insisted that naval architecture must be treated as a science so it might ‘respond to the requirements of the modern day’”[1]. The idea of having a library at Lloyd's Register (LR) came from Creuze, and he donated several volumes of “valuable Books upon Naval Architecture together with several plates” that he had collected over 30 years. In his letter to the General Committee, he states that “‘as a [   ] man anxious from his boyhood to further the interests of his profession and in fact to identify his name with it he has chosen the course which he thinks will do that, preserve the Library in tact, and at the same time [reflecting] his feeling of gratitude for the great kindness he has received from the Society’”[2]. Mr Creuze’s present was accepted and it was decided that “‘the Committee’s acknowledgement and Thanks be conveyed to Mr Creuze’”. We are as grateful for his gift today as the Committee was in 1851, and our cataloguing project of the collections was part of the ongoing care that HEC keeps of the Lloyd’s Register Foundation library today.

AFB Creuze

Image: Augustin Creuze [Reproduced by kind permission of Warwick Sheffield]

As you can see in the pictures, the naïve aspect of these drawings suggests that they were made by a young person. Like Creuze, many students started their naval apprenticeship young, and they would be trained in technical drawing during the course – so you would imagine that their drawing technicality would improve over time.

However, if it was Creuze who drew those doodles, he never signed them. The book was published in 1736 and had several owners before ending up in Creuze’s hands. William Gibson was one. On the first page of the book, William Gibson wrote a book rhyme to identify that the book belonged to him:

Marine Architecture first page

“William Gibson is my name and England is my Nation Scarbro [Scarborough] is my dwelling Place and heaven I hope will be my habitation, William Gibson”.

On the last pages you also find that he clearly owned this book:

Marine Architecture William Gibson signature

Another possible artist responsible for those drawings is John William, who also wrote his name all over the book. It is interesting to notice, though, that he signed his name precisely by some drawings. It seems like he was trying to point out that those artworks were by him:

Marine Architecture John William drawing

The truth, though, is that we will never be sure who the artist (or artists) was. Not even the creative mind behind the man smoking a pipe:

Marine Architecture pipe smoker

Or this other figure wearing a hat and holding what seems to be a musket. This seems to have been drawn by another hand, as it shows a more mature drawing technique. Is it a signature under this drawing? Perhaps the inscription reads "his own glass" (a special thank you to Barbara Jones and Eileen Kinghan for the transcription!) which would likely mean that instead of the figure holding a musket, he is in fact holding a telescope.

Marine Architecture musket man

Whoever the artist was, three things make this my favourite object: the publication date of 1736 and the feeling of history within it, knowing that this book was part of Augustin Creuze's collection and his important role in LR’s history, and the delightful unexpected surprise of finding these doodles.

[1] Watson, Nigel, “Maritime science and technology: changing our world”, 2015 p. 53

[2] Committee Minutes Book, 24 July 1851, pp. 193-5

An excerpt of this article appeared in the HEC monthly newsletter, to receive our newsletter, please sign up here.